Unlike jogging or football, mountain biking is one of the few sports that can appeal to introverts and extroverts alike. As long as you have a keen eye for beauty, a determination to better yourself, or a deep longing for nature, conquering a mountain trail will hit all the right endorphin triggers.
Taking a bike ride within the city could be a great alternative to driving a car, depending on where you live. Riding your fixed gear bike to the mall, however, will never put you in touch with the clear, crisp mountain air, the incredible vistas, or the shy wildlife that you can find on a proper trail. And if there is one advantage to living in one of the widest and most geographically diverse countries in the world, it’s that there are “proper trails” for every taste.
There are glorious landscapes waiting to be explored all around the country. From rolling hills to rugged deserts and demanding, steep-wooded trails, we have ridden in all types of weather and through all types of ecosystems to bring you a glimpse of the very best that the country has to offer.
What Makes a Great Biking Trail – and a Great Expedition
Personally, we believe that versatility is the name of the game. Some of our readers are undoubtedly always seeking the harshest and most extreme environments, whereas others simply want an exhilarating activity to crown their vacation time. We have included a mix of easy, intermediate, and difficult trails – all in beautiful, yet accessible places. There will be a town to buy supplies nearby (there always is!) as well as the chance to hear nothing but you, your riding partners, and nature.
Naturally, when hitting the wilds, some precautions never go amiss. Helmets are not optional in the mountains and always make sure that somebody knows where you are going and when you can be expected to check in back in civilization. Experienced bikers are often the first ones to highlight that a spare GPS and extra provisions can save lives!
Best Mountain Biking Trails in Every Corner of the U.S.
Santos Mountain Bike Path
Most of us think of Florida as relatively flat and swampy, but the Santos Mountain Bike Path located just outside of Ocala, in Northern Florida, offers 85 miles of epic scenery across Seminole land. Ideal for new bikers who are looking for their first real challenge, this area is blessed with sunny skies year-round.
The park is well served by a variety of bike shops, camping sites, and nearby parking facilities. It has extensive off-road trails as well as a new, mostly-shaded paved route ideal for those taking the family along for the ride. If you are an adventurer looking for a stiffer challenge, the trail’s relative altitude of 1200 feet and steep dirt hills won’t disappoint you.
As this is a relatively dry area, braces will not be necessary, so you’ll only need to pack your usual trail gear.
Dupont State Forest Ridgeline Trail
The North Carolina backcountry offers some of the best-preserved woods in the country and so is often chosen as the setting for adventure or historical movies. One of the best ways to embrace the settler living inside you is to traverse the Ridgeline Trail in Dupont State Forest, nestled between Transylvania and Henderson counties on the eastern ridges of the State.
The trails in this park wind over 100 miles long and include shaded dirt paths, daring hills, vast lakes, and oddly-familiar waterfalls. You might recognize some parts of the park from the original Hunger Games movie. The park itself has well-kept facilities and changing rooms as well as hospitable staff on hand in case of emergencies or other needs while you’re in the park.
Torry Ridge in Shenandoah Valley
Virginia is a state full of well-kept secrets and has managed to keep its unexplored appeal all the way into the 21st century. Torry Ridge mountain trail is just now gaining country-wide popularity.
Located in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains, this expert-level trail is quite a bit shorter than many of the paths listed here. But don’t let that fool you; this is a demanding path that starts with a rough ascent of five miles before you can reach the first set of breathtaking vistas. Bring your best suspension and some rough, cushioned clothes. Most of the train is rocky and irregular.
The bigger the challenge, the bigger the reward, right?
Finger Lakes Trail
We continue our way north with a visit to deep New York State, more specifically to Mt. Morris. The Finger Lakes trail offers a whopping 950 miles of gravel, paved, and rocky roads, encompassing vertigo-inducing drops, mellow hills, creek crossings, and seemingly untouched forests.
If you can’t make up your mind about which section you’d like to explore, worry not; the biking trails meet the main road relatively often, so even if you can’t disappear camping for a week, you can squeeze in several good rides. The park authorities have taken care of providing extensive maps and accurate GPS markers to help guide your adventure.
New England is the home of collegiate gothic and bucolic, blue-blooded peace, but those who are looking for its more unpolished side cannot skip Kingdom Trails in East Burke, Vermont.
As befits any place near the Canadian border, Kingdom Trails is open only during the warmer half of the year. During hiking season, though, the small town of East Burke does its best to welcome visitors and hikers. Therefore, there is a great variety of food trucks close to the park’s Welcome Center. The staff can help you design your route depending on your skill level as this beautiful gem of a park has paths suited for every level of rider.
Mountains may be scarce in the flat Midwest, but the further in you go, the closest you will get to some of the best adventure and mountaineering venues in the country.
Hermosa Creek Trail
Western Colorado offers surprisingly diverse scenery, and the outskirts of Hermosa show the best of every possible setting in the region. The Hermosa Creek Trail doesn’t have the meandering paths and hidden shoot-offs of the larger Eastern parks, but it still manages to pack hills, ascents, and delicious sunset vistas.
This area is known for being relatively wet year-round, so make sure you are prepared to deal with lots of dirt and mud. The biking trail itself is approximately 20 miles long, but the uneven terrain means that it may take up to 5 hours to traverse it. This short distance is enough to showcase creeks, rivers, a canyon, and even a bit of desert.
Montana may as well be called the Mountain State, and adventure sports fans always make sure to pay the land its due respect. The Bangtail Divide is one of the best places to do so if you are into conquering mountain bike trails.
Situated a short drive from Bozeman, the Bangtail Divide trail connects Stony Creek and Grassy Mountain through 24 miles of epic scenery, soft slopes, and relentless uphill sections. The area is mostly covered with movie-worthy pine, beech, and spruce trees. A favorite escape for hunters and fishers, the Bangtail Divide requires strong lungs and quick reflexes and, so, should be reserved for experienced bikers.
Osberg Ridgeline Trail
Idaho’s Sun Valley is one of the top bike-friendly areas in the country. The town itself is populated by biking lovers, and as such, offers a wide variety of shops, repair services, and mountain trails nearby.
The Osberg Ridgeline is not the most difficult trail, nor is it the longest (it’s only 12 miles long), but it definitely offers some of the most beautiful opportunities to go off-road and explore the backcountry. Traffic is scarce, so the trail feels peaceful and isolated despite being very close to the town. Should you stick around the area for several days, you can easily visit any of the more than 30 miles of trails nearby.
The Whole Enchilada
As we head south back from Pine Tree country, the landscape turns dry and a bit grayer, but it never stops being gorgeous or demanding. The Whole Enchilada is actually a trail complex in Utah, connecting four distinct but easily-connected trails: Kokopelli, Burro Pass, Hazard Country, and Porcupine.
This is a bit of a high-altitude experience, so make sure your cardiovascular fitness level can cut the custard before braving the Whole Enchilada. If you’re not quite there yet, you can keep rolling along on the Porcupine.
The total loop is 62 miles long, so if you want to go for it, be prepared to camp. Bring extra water and cold weather clothes too. Temperature fluctuations can be unforgiving in this area.
If you’d prefer to enjoy your Martian Red Sand with a little less breathtaking effort, Thunder Mountain is a great option as well. Close to Bryce Canyon Natural Park in Utah, this trail has much milder slopes and only the occasional steep drop. The trail also offers a lot more space than most of its woodsy counterparts, which makes it ideal for a group adventure.
Make sure to bring a camera because some of the natural rock sculptures that litter Thunder Mountain are just dying for a cheeky Instagram post. And make sure you bring a GPS device or navigator with you. This area is notoriously deserted despite being quite close to Salt Lake City, so you can’t count on running into anyone else if you lose your way.
If all mountains looked the same, mountain trails would become boring indeed! So, if you are fond of warmer experiences, the Southwest offers a great opportunity to exchange woods and lakes for awe-inspiring deserts and canyons.
Not the movie – nor a place you want to visit when curing an actual hangover. The Hangover is a fairly extreme, otherworldly mountain bike trail located in Sedona, Arizona. Although it’s only 10 miles long, its red, clay-rich soils and extreme temperatures can offer a challenge that will make you feel like an absolute champion when finished.
Sunblock and extra fluids are not optional on this trail. An action camera, technically, is optional, but we strongly recommend you bring one. The shots you can take while sloping down The Hangover can be viral-worthy.
La Tierra Trail
If The Hangover is a bit too extreme for you, La Tierra trail in Santa Fe, New Mexico offers a milder and greener landscape. The grounds include two separate biking and trekking trails and are both relatively well-marked and well-served without sacrificing the rugged appeal of the overall experience. If the day gets too hot, the nearby creek has a very inviting look for intermediate and experienced swimmers and kayakers.
Both La Tierra and the adjacent Big Loop are open throughout the year, thanks to the area’s well-known sunshine. The Big Loop is notably more difficult than La Tierra though. While a great test of endurance, it would escape the confines of a family outing.
The northwest corner of the country is a beautiful contradiction of scorching deserts, high-tech hubs, and pristine woods. It offers great mountain bike trails with a side of consciousness.
Tahoe Rim Trail McKenzie River Trail Lost Valley Loop
Tahoe Rim Trail
McKenzie River Trail
Lost Valley Loop
Tahoe Rim Trail
The massive Tahoe Rim Park sits on the edge of California and Nevada and offers heights and highs alike for anyone who is willing to face its steep climbs. Lake Tahoe is one of the jewels of eastern California for a reason, and its rim trail system overlaps the Pacific Crest Scenic Reserve for several miles.
If this doesn’t provide enough recommendations for the beauty surrounding this trail, just take a look at the commitment shown by the park’s Trail Preservation Association. The volunteer stewards who take care of this park offer everything from weather alerts to First Aid courses and are happy to guide first-time visitors.
McKenzie River Trail
The state of Oregon itself feels like one massive, eco-friendly biking trail sometimes, but the best scenery and most rewarding hills are all found around the McKenzie River. The trail covers 26 miles of some of the oldest woods on the continent, hidden lakes, and idyllic waterfalls.
This trail includes enough of an ascent to make winter gear worth the hassle. It is not uncommon for snow to fall on the upper parts of the trail as late as April.
Lost Valley Loop
A name like Lost Valley screams adventure – and the peaks and woods around Lost Valley Loop and Capitol State Forest won’t disappoint in that regard, despite being located a stone’s throw from the city of Olympia, Washington.
Starting at Fall Creek, the Lost Valley Loop offers a great experience for intermediate and seasoned bikers alike. It is open year-round, although it’s best to cut the course at Mima Falls if you visit during the winter.